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The Voice (an Ephemera novella) by Anne Bishop – review
The Voice is a novella set in the Landscapes of Ephemera, available as an ebook only (at least for now). It was released just before the third novel in the Ephemera series, Bridge of Dreams, and functions as a standalone prequel to the book. I actually read it after I read Bridge, and while it introduces and illumines some of the secondary characters in the novel, this story is not vital information, nor is it redundant, because its focus and events are just so completely separate from the book. That fact is not a criticism, by the way–in my opinion it’s a selling point. I enjoy the world of Ephemera as much as any of the characters we’ve seen in the first two novels, so getting to see how the world manifests around people with a completely different point of view is a treat.
The story itself is brutal in its simplicity. It’s a coming of age type of story, or perhaps more appropriately said a coming of awareness story. In the village where the story is mostly set, everyone bakes their negative emotions into a “moody cake” and brings them to a girl without a name, called “The Voice,” who eats the cake and the emotions that went into it. The main character discovers by accident what happens to The Voice as she eats the moody cakes, and the discovery renders her incapable of living happily in the village for the rest of her life. She cannot enjoy a happiness purchased by the misery of someone else…but can she find a way to rescue The Voice, or can she save only herself?
In terms of storytelling, this novella is tightly woven without feeling rushed. The story is as long as it needs to be; the events of the end are set up well by the events of the beginning and the middle. If you haven’t spent much time in Ephemera, the underlying reasons for why the village works the way it does might be lost, but as long as you can accept that it is you don’t need to know about the landscapes and the breaking of the world and resonating bridges.
For me this was a quick little read that enhanced my reading of Bridge. I actually might recommend reading this after, so you can have all the reveals inside the novel about the City of Vision and its proclivities without any preconceptions.
I would rate this as a worthwhile read for any Ephemera fan and anyone who enjoys redemptive, rebellious short fantasy.